Why isn't a Catholic supposed to marry outside of their faith, and what are the consequences if you do? Additionally, would there be some inside of Catholicism who don't think this is an issue?

I am looking for a quote maybe, or somewhere that says this in a catechism.

I would also appreciate evidence against this belief.


2 Answers 2


The key issues seem to be in the Code of Canon Law, Chapter VI, canon 1125, which says in part:

1/ the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;

2/ the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;

3/ both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.

A theme common to all these clauses is an attempt to maintain the Catholic partner and all future children as members of the Catholic faith, whether out of concern for their souls or concern for Church membership. To ensure that the Catholic faith is seen by both partners as paramount and that they regard their marriage as an exclusively Catholic sacrament, canon 1127, clause 3, says:

It is forbidden to have another religious celebration of the same marriage to give or renew matrimonial consent before or after the canonical celebration according to the norm of §1. Likewise, there is not to be a religious celebration in which the Catholic who is assisting and a non-Catholic minister together, using their own rites, ask for the consent of the parties.

Until around the middle of the twentieth century, the Catholic Church tended to insist the non-Catholic partner convert to Catholicism and only permitted mixed marriages as a last resort, in cases where conversion was refused and the Catholic partner was at risk of marrying outside the Church. Which brings us to the second part of the question - the fact that Catholics were increasingly prepared to enter into mixed marriages, with or without Church approval, brought about a relaxation of this impediment. Now, there are many Catholics who don't think this is an issue and are willing to make the required undertakings merely as a formality, or to marry outside the Church. Marrying outside the Church might mean the Catholic is no longer able to receive communion, but worldwide statistics from 2004 show that in many nominally Catholic countries, a minority of the population even goes to mass every week.

Apart from dispensation to marry outside the faith, subject to the above requirements, it is not possible to provide evidence against this 'belief', because those requirements are not a belief but Church doctrine. Something that is Church doctrine is its own proof.


I would like to add to Dick Harfield’s excellent answer two considerations.

First of all, there are two distinct scenarios here that are treated differently by Canon Law:

  • The so-called disparity of cult, which occurs when the non-Catholic party is not baptized. In this case, by default such a marriage is invalid, and in order for the marriage to proceed, a dispensation is needed. (See Canon 1086. Note that the language in §1 has since been amended by the motu proprio Omnium in mentem to read, “A marriage between two persons, one of whom was baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, and the other of whom is not baptized, is invalid.”)

  • The so-called mixed marriage, which occurs when the non-Catholic party is baptized. Although in this case, a license (permission) is needed for the marriage to proceed, it is not necessary for validity. (I.e., it is wrong to proceed without permission, but it will not prevent a marriage from taking place.) Canons 1124-1129 discuss this situation.

This distinction relates to my second observation: as a practical pastoral matter, having a spouse from a different religious background presents considerable difficulties for a marriage. The couple is not able to be united in faith, and particularly when both spouses are very committed to their faith, tensions will inevitably develop.

Hence, although the Chuch will seldom deny a Catholic the possibility of marrying a non-Catholic (even in the case of disparity of cult; as a practical matter, dispensations for the impediment are regularly given), those involved in marriage preparation would do well to help fiancés in this situation to work through any potential difficulties.

  • Additionally, my understanding is that practically, the church assumes that all marriages between the baptized are valid unless there is evidence to the contrary. However, there is a distinction between a valid marriage and a sacramental marriage, which cannot take place when one party doesn't recognize the existence or character of the sacrament.
    – JAGAnalyst
    Sep 18, 2015 at 22:40
  • 1
    @JAGAnalyst Not exactly. The Church assumes that all marriages between two baptized non-Catholics are valid and sacramental (unless there is an obvious impediment—e.g., a previous marriage). Catholics are bound by something called “canonical form,” which entails, among other things, exchanging consent (vows) before a properly delegated witness (usually a priest or deacon). Non-Catholics are not bound by this requirement. In fact, the Church holds that all marriages between two baptized persons (whether Catholic or not) are sacraments. See the Code of Canon Law 1055 §2. Sep 19, 2015 at 6:16
  • I understand the requirements and circumstances related to when a dispensation from form is required, I wasn't speaking about when two Catholics marry.
    – JAGAnalyst
    Sep 19, 2015 at 6:18
  • @JAGAnalyst There is such a thing as a “natural” (i.e., non-sacramental) marriage, but that can only exist when at least one of the parties is not baptized. In other words: two baptized persons -> sacramental marriage; at least one non-baptized person -> non-sacramental marriage. There is, according to the Catholic Church, no other possibility. Sep 19, 2015 at 6:19
  • @JAGAnalyst The topic of whether faith in the sacramental character of marriage is necessary for it to be a sacrament has been discussed many times in the Church, and the conclusion has always been that explicit faith is not necessary for marriage to be sacramental. Sep 19, 2015 at 6:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .